Inclusive business in practice

Case studies from the Business Innovation Facility portfolio

How does inclusive business work in practice? Where can I read a case study that gives the nuts and bolts of a business model and some frank reflections about what works and doesn’t work? Questions like these prompted this series of ‘deep dive’ case studies that explores seven companies supported by the Business Innovation Facility. The seven reports cover what counts as success and what factors have created it. They assess the context and mechanics of the business model. Actual or likely commercial returns, emerging impacts on base of the pyramid beneficiaries, value added from BIF support, key success factors for scale and lessons relevant for other companies are also drawn out. The businesses span a range of different sectors: agriculture, education, ICT, banking, energy and retail. They include companies who are introducing new technologies, exploring new ways of working through partnerships, expanding employment opportunities or offering new, affordable products. The beneficiaries range from smallholder farmers and marginalised women to teachers, students and whole communities. We hope that the reports will provide inclusive business practitioners with knowledge and insights on how companies are progressing on their inclusive business journeys – each one distinctive, yet each discovering challenges and solutions that resonate with others.

ACI Agribusiness: Designing and testing an integrated contract farming model in Bangladesh The difficulties of setting up a contract farming model engaging smallholder farmers, have not deferred ACI, a Bangladeshi agribusiness conglomerate. Read about the companies ambitious pilot in 2013 and learnings for the future.

The JITA sales network: An inclusive business on the rise The transition from an NGO-run programme to a profitable company took JITA less than 2 years. Read how Jita has maintained its core social focus – recruiting marginalised rural Bangladeshi women as rural distributors of consumer goods – while building in commercial growth, diversification, and achievement of break-even ahead of schedule in 2013.

Commercialising cassava: New opportunities for Universal Industries and Malawian smallholders The crop is low-value, farmers lack links to formal markets, processing needs to happen 48 hours post-harvest, partnerships need improvement, and a viable production line depends on high consistent volumes. Read how and why Universal Industries, a Malawian snacks manufacturer, is tackling such challenges and has operationalised a new factory and smallholder sourcing model for cassava.

MEGA: A commercial approach to off-grid power in rural Malawi The first light bulb was lit at Lower Bondo on Mulanje Mountain in mid-2013, generated by a micro-hydro power scheme operated by MEGA, Malawi’s first operational private energy company. Read about MEGA’s journey to find a commercial yet affordable energy solution for rural households, with ambition to scale across other off-grid communities.

Evolution of mKRISHI®: A technology platform for Indian farmers The case for technology in agriculture enabling farmers to improve both yields and margins is compelling and at the heart of mKRISHI®, an inclusive business led by Tata Consulting Services (TCS), part of one of India’s largest companies. Read how a technology in search of a route to market seems to have found a new business model, and is now trying to take off.

iSchool: Transformative learning in the Zambian classroom The Zambian start-up iSchool is a true pioneer in the e-learning space in Zambia and potentially beyond. Read about iSchool’s journey leading up to its commercial launch in late 2013 that required continuous innovation to slash cost per pupil per term and purse the twin goals of a sustainable business and educational transformation.

Collaborating for smallholder finance: How is Stanbic closing the loop? Can agricultural credit unlock productivity in Nigerian smallholder agriculture, sufficient to generate returns for farmers, input-providers, harvesters, and the bank that drives the scheme? Read about the ambitious scope and fine detail of Stanbic Bank ‘s smallholder finance scheme, which seeks to catalyse a whole new approach to smallholder farming and rural banking.


More publications


Practical information for inclusive business practitioners, to develop and scale up business strategies

Inside Inclusive business

In-depth documents sharing practical ideas, challenges and solutions of inclusive business

Key Reports

Explore the findings and lessons learnt from Innovations Against Poverty and the Business Innovation Facility pilot

Project Resources

Materials which have been produced during support from the Hub partner programmes to specific inclusive business projects


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